Fired Oakton cop's lawsuit: 'Problem employee' ad is defamatory

 
 
Updated 4/28/2016 10:41 AM
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  • This exhibit, attached to Joan Nebel's federal lawsuit, shows a flier displayed at Oakton Community College showing her and another former Oakton officer. Nebel says the flier defames her. Read the federal complaint at dailyherald.com.

    This exhibit, attached to Joan Nebel's federal lawsuit, shows a flier displayed at Oakton Community College showing her and another former Oakton officer. Nebel says the flier defames her. Read the federal complaint at dailyherald.com.

A former Oakton Community College public safety sergeant says in a federal lawsuit she was fired after alleging "systemic" gender discrimination and a hostile work environment in the school's public safety department.

And, she claims the Des Plaines-based college defamed her by posting fliers around campus with her photo, promoting a seminar called, "Problem Employees and the Games They Play."

Joan Nebel, who worked in Oakton's public safety department from 2002 until her firing June 2, 2015, alleges her firing was the result of her bringing gender discrimination complaints to her bosses. Those statements are "statutorily protected activity," the suit states.

Oakton spokesman Paul Palian on Wednesday declined to comment on the suit, and didn't say why Nebel was fired.

Oakton's human resources director and attorney raised "alleged incidents" during an interview with Nebel last May, according to the suit.

After her firing, Oakton put up copies of the flier advertising a Nov. 17, 2015, seminar at the Homeland Security Training Institute at the College of DuPage, the suit states. It included photos of Nebel and another former employee, who also sued the college after his firing, according to the suit.

The lawsuit alleges the same fliers were still up in the department's patrol, sergeants, and interview rooms as of Monday, though Oakton officials wouldn't confirm that.

In a February 2015 interview with Oakton's human resources director, Nebel supported allegations of gender discrimination by two former female Oakton cops, and raised allegations of gender discrimination of her own, the federal filing states. In retaliation, a "formal investigation" was initiated against her by then-Acting Chief George Carpenter, leading to her firing in June, the suit alleges.

The suit states Oakton chose Carpenter ahead of Nebel to serve as chief after former Chief Dennis Nolan notified the school of his retirement in January 2014, despite her being more qualified.

Nebel, who declined to comment through her attorney, is seeking reinstatement, damages and back pay.

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